Valentine’s Day is typically a time when we tell our partner how much they mean to us. But for some people, the person they spend the most time with isn’t their spouse, it’s their business partner. Choosing a business partner is the first thing you do for your business, and one of the most critical.
Here are four ways to tell if your business partner is the one for you:
1. They have different skills
While it may be fun to sit and brainstorm with someone who has the same thought process as you do, it won’t lead to much innovation. It also doesn’t help if neither person likes doing cold calls, but you both want to design your newest logo. Having too many skills in common will lead to gaps in your business. The more separate areas you and your partner have expertise in, the less you’ll have to outsource while getting started. Not only will it save you money, it will be important down the line when you start hiring. You’ll know the talent you’re looking for in each area and have a higher chance of getting the right fit immediately.
2. But similar values
While you want separate business skills, you’ll want to look for someone who has the same ethics and values. If you want the company to do everything sustainably, but your partner would rather prioritize lower costs over environmental friendliness, you have a fundamental difference of values. Unless you’re friends with a person before you get into business, it may be hard to know where they stand on certain things. Try going out on regular business “dates” before you commit. Talk about everything and get a full understanding of who they are as a person. If you want to speed things up, book a vacation together. Traveling can give you a crash course on someone’s personality and let you know quickly if the two of you get along.
3. They’re financially and personally stable
You want someone who’s as committed to the business as you are. If your potential partner has stress and drama in their life, it will make it hard for them to be devoted to the business full time. While it’s easy to give someone a pass when they have something urgent going on, it can make you resentful if it keeps happening. Be sure you’re both in agreement on how much you’re committing to the business, both in time and money, to avoid any hurt feelings moving forward. It’s also a smart idea to get this in writing before any work has been done. Having a written record of what you’ve each agreed to do can help you avoid any he said/she said arguments down the line.
4. They have the ability to make a decision as a team
You definitely want a decision-maker as a partner, having someone who hems and haws can waste valuable time. However, you don’t want someone who’s willing to make decisions without consulting you. While it’s common to be excited when laying the groundwork for a new business, you need to quickly recognize the difference between excited and impulsive. To help avoid decision making battles, create a plan for how you make your business decisions. Do you both have to agree on everything before you can move forward? Do you each get final say over your individual areas of expertise? If a decision costs more than $X does it require a consensus? How you handle it is up to you, but there will be times when you disagree. Having a plan in advance can save a big fight. When it comes time to pick a structure, set a budget and build a team you’ll be glad you’ve already agreed on how you make decision.
You’ve found the one...now don’t forget to sign a pre-nup! Sometimes, even with the best planning, business partnerships break up. Fights over money and equity can lead to the end of friendships. The best thing you can do to avoid all of that is to get everything about your partnership in writing before it begins, and outline a clear plan if one of you wants to exit the business. While your partnership may be over, your friendship doesn’t have to be.
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